[avatar user=”Mark Alperin” size=”thumbnail” align=”right”]

Here is a question I get asked, especially as we take on new clients that have been hit by penalties:

How long does it take for links to drop out of Google Webmaster Tools after they have been disavowed?

Through good SEO and maintaining a strictly white-hat application of it, we’ve never had a client penalized by links we’ve spread, but still, penalties happen. They can happen on links that are 3,4, 5 years old or more. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how white hat you are when you’re inheriting an old domain; the internet doesn’t forget and neither does Google. If you engaged in black hat SEO (or what would now be deemed as black hat) and you haven’t cleaned up the old links, sooner or later you’ll be hit with a penalty or crunched through a filter. Link reclamation and curating is a key part of effective SEO.

But let’s say for a moment that you’ve been through the reclamation process. You’ve pruned your backlink profile into the perfect example of what a backlink profile should be with only the best links remaining. You’ve contacted webmasters and worked with the friendly ones. You were persistent in the face of obstacles of the unresponsive webmasters that are all too common. Finally, you’ve disavowed those that remained. Now everything should be perfect, right?


The waiting is the hardest part.

After the reclamation and disavow process, it can take a looooong time for those links to actually filter out of Webmaster Tools. Basically Google needs to re-crawl those links and then reference the disavow list before being able to drop that association. The only way Google finds those links is with it’s normal crawling process. That means if the link is really old and there is no content pointing to the link on the page, it will take Google a very long time to find and then work through it. Not only that, but it can take time from once it’s processed to when it actually drops out of the links Google is reporting back.

So how long does it take for this process to happen?

Well, the process isn’t linear across the web; the links need to be crawled. So, it can take as little as a month for links to start to drop out of Webmaster Tools, but it can take as long as 3 months or more for older links to drop out and for the association to be broken. And really, that’s just one step.

The removal of these links does not necessarily mean that traffic is going to jump back up, especially not to where it was if you were spamming Google. Rebuilding is necessary. This is where content strategies, relationships with bloggers and a commitment to consistent updates and publishing become vital.

What timelines have you seen with the disavow tool and actually seeing the links drop out of Google’s Webmaster Tools?